To see Komodo Dragons you can take either a 1 or 2 day boat trip. Both take in the island of Rinca with the second day going onto Komodo Island. With my new friends Maja & Mitja (Mack & Mable to me) we opt for the longer trip paying a little extra to reserve the boat exclusively for ourselves. On boarding the boat three trainee Somali priates push us off and we wait to greet our captain but no this is our crew. All aged 15.Naturally there are no life vests. Who needs them when you have snorkeling equipment?
We had wanted to start our tour early morning feeling wild animals are most active around sunrise or sunset but this was not possible.A guide is compulsory and ours worked hard first finding an immature Dragon asleep on a rock and then a female doing the same in amongst some leaves. The hike ended at the Rangers Kitchen and there underneath slept a further six. Although there were no fences it felt like an expensive zoo experience.
The day was saved when we anchored off Pink Beach for snorkeling. I am no world expert but this was the best coral I have seen. The variety and colours just AWESOME as were the numerous fish. The day finished surrounded by dolphins as we cruised into a brilliant sunset for our nights mooring.
By sleeping on the boats deck we had eaten breakfast and made Komodo Island by 7-30. A much better chance to see activity. Almost immediately we were rewarded when we reached a watering hole and Dragons. Two youngsters were active whilst two large males lay prone . Somehow it felt much more real even if there was a load of posing for touristic photos. I wasn’t the only one. The hike did not reveal any other Dragons until again we ended outside the Rangers kitchen and again many slept. Maybe they feed them. You think so? The day however was not yet done. As we returned to our boat there on the beach looking out to sea was a Dragon. On seeing us he decided to head for cover. At last a Dragon in motion and what an incredible sight.
I could not have been happier but I could be equally as happy as was proven next. We cruised to Manta Point to spot ? You have guessed it, Rays. I thought it would be like searching for a needle in a hay stack but our captain very quickly spotted one. “Off you go” says he or he would have had he spoken English. In our amazement we grabbed our snorkels and jumped in. I lost count but estimated swimming with upward of 20 of these enormous creatures. Maybe three meters across?. It could have proven dangerous as I believe you can drown if you persist in snorkeling with a massive grin on your face but sometimes you just carn’t help yourself.
The tour presses on and at 5-30 the next morning I am standing outside my hotel awaiting the bus for Bajawa when a car pulls up. After some negotiations ” Ricky” agrees to take me for the same price I would have paid on the bus. A front seat and no chicken on the head . Lucky me. This elevated posistion allowed me a closer observation of a theory I have that Indonesian drivers are somehow related to the horse. Ricky proved typical. Initially he needed plenty of encouragement with legs and whip as he stop started seeking other passengers. Eventually we left town behind and the ride settled down into a smooth phrase . Typically with 50k to our destination he sniffs his stable and with ears flat back and clamping down on the bit he galloped for home. On a narrow twisting road even Louis Hamilton driving his formula one car would struggle to overtake. Little wonder I am grey.
The reason for coming to Bajawa is to visit the traditional villages of the Ngada people of whom 60,000 live in this region. They used to practice animalistic rites but most have now been converted to Catholism. After all why bother with slaughtering the odd chicken when every Sunday you can eat the body and drink the blood of Christ ? I foist myself on a Dutch Father and Daughter couple to share the tours cost. The two villages we visited had been concreted over to stop tourist getting muddy flip flops but were still interesting. Each hut belonged to a caste and old women sat outside galvanised by the sight of tourists to start weaving. Everyone of them was terrible emancipated and toothless no doubt down to an addiction to Betel Nut. The contrast could not have been greater than with one hut which produced three delightful healthy youngsters but what future awaited them.
Sticking with Robert and his daughter we moved on to Moni and the Volcano Kelimutu. No need to groan I have learned my lesson. This volcano is conquered by taking a Bemo(shared mimi bus) until only a 40minute walk up concrete steps remains to the summit. The hardest part is rising at 4am to ensure catching the sunrise over the volcano’s three coloured lakes. It would have been great had it not being ruined by a light rain fall. Bloody nature. I always like to see people enjoying their own country and we were joined at the summit by a party of female bank operatives on a weekend jaunt from West Timor. Like all Asians taking photos and selfies is more important than natures glory.
After three days staying in a stilted bamboo beach hut I fly from Flores to West Timor. When I land night is drawing in and it is raining. Pep talk to self ” Hang the expense spend the £3-50 on a cab for the 15K ride into town.”and I listened.The foremost reason to be in Kupang is to obtain a Visa for Timor Leste which proved easier than anticipated. Meanwhile the shops are preparing for Xmas with sales assisstants donning antlers and Father Xmas hats . The PA systems belt out carols in a mixture of Indonesian and English but I suspect the plea of “Let it snow Let it snow ” will be forlorn. A traditional feature would appear to be fireworks and my heart’s condition has been throughly tested by fire crackers exploded in my vicinity.
I had made plans to do a three day tour visiting and staying in tribal villages but Hank who was to share the expense with me had Visa problems and cancelled. I still went to the Market ,two hours up a broken road, which was full of interesting characters if somewhat camera shy. Now I am two days away from the end of my Indonesian experience. My thoughts are it has been a great trip. The people have been amazingly friendly and helpful, air conditioning has helped cope with the heat and the rainy season which has been chasing me through out has only just caught up with me. I don’t expect Timor Leste to be so very different but an alternative to rice cannot come quick enough for me.
Nicky Bailey on Blog 4 Nicky Bailey on Leg 3 Nicky Bailey on Blog 3 Photos Nicky Bailey on Leg 2/2 Nicky Bailey on Sumatra